Page 35 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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F
ischel
— L
iterary
C
reat iv ity
of
t h e
J
ews
of
C
och in
2 9
Seder Tefillot.
It was followed by
Hupa t Hattan im
in 1769 and
reprinted in 1842 in Leghorn. David Rahabi’s
Ohel David
was
also published in Amsterdam in 1785.
The first Hebrew printing press on Indian soil came into exist-
ence in Bombay and Calcutta in the fourth decade of the 19th
century as a direct result of the emigration of some individual
Jews from Cochin to these cities.
Among the Cochin immigrants to Bombay were educators, teach-
ers and communal leaders who transformed the religious life of
the Bene Israel group in Bombay—that long-forgotten tribe of
Israel. There were also those who promoted the publication of
liturgical texts for themselves and for the Bene Israel group.
One of the earliest liturgical works published in Bombay (in
lithography), entitled
Selihot according to the Sephardic R i te ,
appeared in 1841 through the initiative of Shlomoh b. Salem
Shar‘abi, a Cochin Jew of Yemenite ancestry. The work of an-
other Cochin Jew who had immigrated to Bombay, Abraham
Yahuda Gamal, was entitled
Shirot shel Yamim Tovim ve-Shab-
batot
according to the Cochin Minhag. It was published in Bom-
bay in 1848 and reissued in 1853, again by a Cochin Jew, Obadya
Sakkai.
The most significant publication by a Cochin Jew in the field
of liturgical works was the
Haggadah shel Pesah,
in Hebrew with
a Marathi translation for the “Bene Israel.״ This was the first
Hebrew book ever printed (lithography, Bombay, 1846) in India
with illustrations. It demonstrates the then prevailing unity of
the various Jewish groups in Bombay, since it represents a joint
effort by members of different groups within Oriental Jewry. The
editor of the Hebrew text was Rabbi Hayyim Joseph Hallegua,
one of the “White״ Jews of Cochin, a member of a prominent
Cochin family that had moved to Bombay. The Marathi trans-
lation and explanations were prepared by two “Bene Israel” Jews,
Hayyim Isaac Galzurkar and Ezekiel Joseph Talkar, and the
entire work was put through the press by a Cochin Jew, Abraham
Yehuda Gamal. Those responsible for the publication seemed to
have been conscious of this unique unifying feature when they
stressed on the title page, “This is new, the like of which has
never been in existence before.״ This
Haggadah shel Pesah
became
so popular that it was republished with additions to the text
in Poona in 1874, in Bombay in 1890 (5651), and again issued
under the title “The Institution of Passover״ in Hebrew and
Marathi for the fourth time, also in Bombay, in 1935 (5695).
Cochin Jews proved to be promoters and pioneers of the Hebrew
printing press also in Calcutta. This Jewish community was estab-
lished in the early decades of the 19th century through the influx
of predominantly Arabic speaking Jews from Baghdad, Basra and